How To Shop Freely And Still Keep Within Your Budget

It’s tough out there. House prices are falling, wage increases are not keeping in line with inflation and more and more people are being made redundant. Of course, that means that everyone needs to tighten their belts and keep a close eye on their spending.

Luckily, that doesn’t mean you will be living off bread and rice and using Store Brand cleaning products. If you follow the tips below, you can shop with freedom and still stick to your weekly budget.

1: Your Essential Weekly Budget

Critically, you need to determine how much you spend on shopping each week (that is: groceries and essentials, not shoes and jewelry!).

The easiest way to do this is to take your last four weeks of receipts and make a note of all those items you buy every week and their prices.

If you have a smartphone, it may be a good idea to get an app like Grocery IQ or Foodle where you can add these items to a shopping list.

Remember: at this point you are just including stuff you buy each week. Try to make sure that these are genuine essentials not just stuff you like to buy all the time. So, those candies, Ice cream and chips don’t count! Add up the cost of these items: this represents your minimum weekly spend. Make a note of it.

2: Your Discretionary Budget

The next step is to take an average of the last four weeks total grocery spending. Subtract the figure you have for your minimum weekly budget from this total and you will have your ‘discretionary budget’. This is the amount you can spend on non-essentials that you would really like to have.

Now is the time to be realistic, however. If you are looking at your average weekly spend and you are thinking ‘wow, I never realised it was that much’, then you need to examine what you are buying and how you can reduce that amount. Especially if you are on a low income.

I suspect that most people overspend on their weekly shopping, so I would suggest that you be as hard on yourself as you can regarding non-essential items.

3: Saving On the Essentials

Now that you have divided up your grocery spending into ‘essential’ and ‘discretionary’, you will have a better idea of what you really need to spend and what you are actually spending.

Nevertheless, the point of this article is to try to make sure you have the freedom to buy the stuff you want as well as the stuff you need without going over budget.
Luckily, there are regular discounts available on the essentials – bread, cereal, fresh meat, toilet tissue and so on – in the form of coupons. You don’t need to turn yourself into one of those crazed couponers to take advantage. Just be aware of what offers are out there, check out websites like coupons.com frequently and you will be able to reduce your ‘essential’ budget every week.

This, of course, will free up more money to buy those things you love.

shopping

Photo source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivanwalsh/4617349366/

4: Buying In Bulk

A word of warning here: I would strongly recommend you don’t buy larger box sizes or bulk of anything with a ‘use by’ date. And yes, that includes tins and things like cereal that last a long time. Very often, this is a false economy.

However, with things like toilet paper, cleaning products or even cat litter, buying in bulk is a good way to go. You should be able to save quite a lot if you buy these types of products in bulk. Once again, look out for coupons for bulk purchases to get those costs down even further.

The more you reduce the costs of your essential items, the more you free up to buy the things you love. Just be sure not to go above your total (essentials and discretionary) budget. In this case, if you are buying in bulk this week then you may not be able to buy those little luxuries until next week.

5: Comparison Shop for Essential Items

Do you always shop at one particular store? Well, don’t. Some of the stuff on your essential items list is probably cheaper elsewhere. So, why be loyal to one store? You can compare prices online before you shop. Alternatively, if you are shopping in-store, an app like ShopSavvy can help you find out whether you are getting the best price for any particular item.

6: Avoid the Discounts and Special Offers Trap

Keep in mind that the plan here is to keep the cost of those things that you absolutely must buy down to a minimum in order to free up cash to buy things you just really want.

So, you need to avoid falling into the trap of buying stuff that isn’t essential just because it’s ‘2 for 1 Today Only’ or ‘60% Off’. If it isn’t something that you had already planned to buy then you are not getting a good deal, you are just spending money you wouldn’t otherwise have spent. Don’t get suckered into it. You are not saving anything by buying something at a discount that you wouldn’t otherwise have bought.

The key to all of this is to set a budget you can afford and know how much you have available to buy ‘discretionary’ items. The more savings you can make on those essential items the more freedom you have to buy all that other good stuff. It’s that simple.

About The Author

Gemma Greene is a careful shopper who likes to spend any money she has saved from her essential items budget on great value stocking filler gifts at FindMeAGift.com.

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